Psychological Self-Help

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of 25 years of talk shows and self-help books. Dr. Wilson suggests that
the primary focus of mass media gurus has shifted from sympathy for
the victim during the 1980’s Recovery Movement to critical, scolding,
take responsibility lectures, e.g. Dr. Laura and Dr. Phil, in the 1990s.
She also believes that the players in mass media psychology have
become far more powerful—more influential with the public—than the
professional helpers and their disciplines (that the shows take their
material from). I believe that. The tail (entertaining performances—
some quite elaborate) is wagging the dog (the scientific foundation for
psychological help). 
As several communication experts have observed: Watching
emotions and humor seduces us away from hard reality and the
intellect. Emotions appeal to us more than reason. This is well known
by advertisers and TV producers. So, the mass advice industry attracts
viewers with dramatic emotions. Often we are convinced that the
person who expresses emotions and arouses emotions in us is a
genuine, honest, real person who is working towards a solution to
his/her problem. And, Dr. Wilson says the advice industry tries to
persuade the audience that emotions are unquestionably valid and all
one needs to know about a situation or relationship. Emotions and
“emotional reasoning” are so valued, she says, that pop-psychology
considers personal feelings to be a reasonable way to make decisions
about coping. Consider the advice “listen to your inner voice,” “follow
your heart,” and “if you feel that way it must be so.” Letting emotions
over-ride logic, reason, and knowledge is a dangerous way to go,
hardly in line with established psychology. 
Another powerful point made by Dr. Wilson is that the advice
industry (talk shows, call-in radio, self-help books, workshops, etc.)
strives to get everyone involved and thinking alike, e.g. believing there
are one or two major causes for the problem being discussed, such as
domestic violence, unfaithfulness, over-eating, addictions and on and
on. Media advisors try to explain such events in just a few minutes;
there is no time for considering individual differences, backgrounds,
and unique circumstances. To sound profound or to make a quick sale,
the advice-giver also wants to propose a simple solution (usually buy
my book or seminar) which seems believable to many listeners. The
mass media advisor often offers a one-cure-fits-all solution so that all
the listeners can feel they have benefited from the advice. On the
other hand, the thorough individual psychotherapist explores many
different details of the client being treated—the individual’s
background, the disorder, the needs, the circumstances, the stress,
the strengths, the hopes for the future and so on. They see the person
as a unique individual and the treatment is tailored to serve that one
person. In contrast, the media advisor looks for commonality among
us in an effort to interest and serve all the viewers, readers, and
audience. That isn’t good advice giving…it is serving some other
The advice industry offers not just generalities but also vague
advice, rather than explicitly defined methods. (Often, however, the
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